Jim McMahon

You, the consumer, are in the box seat again this year with buying cheap Australian wine. The 2015 (grape crush) vintage was 1.67 million tonnes compared to 1.66 million tonnes in 2014 and this year is expected to be around the same (weather and other factors permitting) if not slightly higher.

The varietal mix in 2015 was neck-and-neck with 835,500 tonnes given over to red wines and 834,000 tonnes to white. The top three red wines, shiraz, cabernet sauvignon and merlot, accounted for 85 per cent of the total red wine crush with shiraz dominating at 47 per cent.

In the whites department, chardonnay surprisingly dominated at 45 per cent while sauvignon blanc was in second place with 11 per cent and pinot grigio/gris at 9 per cent. As the year moves forward, look out for the specials, visit all the online websites and buy, buy, buy to your heart’s content!

As expected from a Riverina wine, the fruit in the Berton Vineyard Metal Label 2015 Sauvignon Blanc is soft and juicy. The wine’s ripe tropical fruit bouquet also dominates the palate. Nothing too complicated, but then again, sauvignon blanc is not usually a complicated wine style. The finish is dry with soft acidity (rrp $12).

Fellow stablemate Berton Vineyard Foundstone 2014 Shiraz is, again, nothing fancy, just a glass of fruit with soft, nearly non-existent tannins. There are mulberries, plums and spicy redcurrant on the nose and palate (rrp $8). The Foundstone 2015 Unoaked Chardonnay is bright lemon with a green edge around the rim, indicating its youth. The apricot and melon flavours on the nose are profound. The palate is soft with lots of ripe melon, apricot and citrus flavours and the finish is long, zesty and dry (rrp $8) — three great quaffers at terrific prices.

Mudgee-based Huntington Estate was established in 1969 by the Roberts family. In 2005, Tim and Nicky Stevens purchased the property and made their first wine under the Huntington Estate label in 2006. Tim was formerly the owner and winemaker at the neighbouring Abercorn winery; the Stevens still own the Abercore brand but not the property.

The red wines made at Huntington Estate are always aged for four years before release.

Their Mudgee 2011 Shiraz is deep purple with a nose of blackcurrant, aniseed and cinnamon. The palate has generous amounts of mulberry, blackberry fruit and sweet spice. The wine has balance and harmony and will reward now or, if cellared well, has many years ahead of it (rrp $25). When you consider the lineage of this winery and the standards it upholds — in its reds in particular, with four years aged in bottle before release — it is a magnificent wine.

The Huntington Estate Mudgee Semillon has long been a favourite with locals and visitors alike. The 2015 vintage is very approachable for a young semillon; it has lemon and lime characters at its core with grassy herbaceous overtones leading to a crisp, dry finish. Give it a couple of years to show itself and perhaps another decade to reward with secondary fruit and other flavours (rrp $22).

I like the Rhone-style blend of the Orange Mountain ‘1397’ 2012 Shiraz Viognier with a little white juice (viognier) with the red (shiraz). The nose exhibits lifted musky and orange blossom characters that really do overtake the shiraz flavours. The palate is soft, with snappy white peach and apricot flavours coming through from the viognier while the dominant shiraz shows through with spicy mulberry and blackcurrant. The finish is full of character. It’s a little on the pricey side but worth every penny for something different for that special person or dinner event (rrp $42).

Zema Estate, established in the Coonawarra in 1982, is one of the few wineries in that region to still hand-prune vines, and it’s where former Lindeman’s winemaker, Greg Clayfield, plies his trade. Here I offer you the Zema Estate 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, with mocha, blackberries and plum on the nose cascading onto the palate. The fruit over-delivers and shows palate weight and length on a dry, soft finish (rrp $29).

Grapes grown across the highlands of NSW’s Central Ranges (Cowra, Hilltops and Orange) go into the Windowrie ‘The Mill’ 2015 Verdelho. The palate is lively and fresh with lemon/limes, apricots and pineapple. A refreshingly dry acid finish, something different for those of you who don’t like sauvignon blanc and are not ready to re-embrace chardonnay (rrp $18).

Finally, Orange Food Week celebrates 25 years of showcasing the best of the region’s food and wine. Head there from April 8-17 and find details here.

Jim McMahon teaches hospitality at Sutherland TAFE.

Teacher's picks

David Martin, HSIE and business services teacher at Great Lakes College, Tuncurry, slaved over an assignment to review his Christmas prize of a dozen bottles of wine from Angullong Wines at Orange.

Entries poured in for the competition in the last issue, where readers were asked when the Angullong wine label was created (2003) and where its cellar door outlet is (Millthorpe). David’s name was picked from a large pile of correct entries. Here are his tasting notes — thank you, David!

2015 Verdelho: Zesty acid with well-weighted fruity flavours; uncomplicated and delicious. Went down well with zucchini, bacon and fetta fritters with an avocado, tomato, fetta and lime salsa.

2014 Chardonnay: Really delicate nose with some nice white peach tones. Good to get fruit as a primary flavour. Little or no oak and a zesty vein of acid as the backbone. Really nice wine: my pick of the whites.

2015 Sauvignon Blanc: Tropical flavours, in balance, very gulpable.

2015 Pinot Grigio: Granny Smith apples, good acid and a vein of sweetness. Great general food wine.

2014 Cabernet Merlot: Light-bodied cab that can take some chill for summer drinking. Consumed on Aussie Day with some BBQ pork chops and apple sauce. Nice wine without being overblown with sugar.

2013 Shiraz: Really nice nose of mixed dark berries and pepper. Palate was very smooth with the berries and white pepper coming to the forefront, could drink this all night. Great match with beef and lamb. Best of the reds!